CLOUDS OF MUSTARD
S&P, to season
how: mix all together and drizzle over cooked vegetables
Goes with: spinach, green beans, broccoli, broccolini, asparagus, snow peas, zucchini, squash
SWEET 'N' TANG
how: melt honey, add vinegar and mix. drizzle over cooked vegetables and toss through with almonds.
Goes with: carrots, pumpkin, roast capsicum, sweet potato, green salad
When I told people I was trialling the Optifast program, many looked at me with horror followed by the words “but you don’t need to lose weight!”. And yes, that was true. However in order to truly understand what my clients go through, I thought I’d walk in my client’s shoes and see how tough sticking to a very low calorie diet (VLCD) is.
The truth is, I’ve never dieted before in my life - like, seriously committed to a diet AND stuck with it for more than 2 meals. I’m also a huge carb fan (that’s the Italian in me) and a strong believer that we need wholesome sources, in small amounts throughout the day. So not only was I embarking on learning to ‘stick’ with the rules, but this was also going to challenge my beliefs and judge for myself whether the testimonials of going low carb provided the “amazing clarity and lightness” that so many say.
Disclaimer: I only recommend Optifast products to my clients who meet the guidelines for a VLCD program, and in no way do I get any kickbacks from using this product or writing this article.
Goal: To complete 5 days of Optifast Transition Phase
NB: Usually the program suggests starting in the intensive phase (3 meal replacements per day) however I tend to start my clients on the Transition Phase as it’s more achievable. I also felt that because I’m within a healthy weight range, it would be more appropriate to start here too.
I had bought the coffee flavoured Optifast shakes as I felt this would be more palatable than a sweeter option like chocolate or strawberry. I hadn’t given it much thought prior to this experiment and suddenly Sunday night I was dreading the shake the following morning. How pleasantly surprised I was! It tasted delicious except the texture was a bit strange and I found that you had to drink it down fairly quickly as the longer it sat, the thicker it got. Boom - first shake done and dusted. Off to work.
The satisfaction didn’t last long and by 11am, I was feeling flat as a tack. I decided to have my piece of fruit then which picked me up until lunchtime. Except I had forgotten that it was a colleagues farewell lunch and I was suddenly faced with my first challenge. I had to sit there with my bowl of carrot, celery, capsicum and lettuce and coffee flavoured shake whilst everyone else lunched on hot cheese scones, fruit scones, chocolate sponge cake, blue cheese and crackers, frankfurts, date cacao balls and greek salad. That killed me there and then… but I held strong and it was in that moment that I decide it was on like Donkey Kong - no turning back now.
On my 45 minute drive home, the headache and fatigue set in and I was so hungry that all I could think of was the meal I was going to cook for dinner; 150g eye fillet and vegetable ratatouille. To prove how hungry I was, I forgot to take a photograph!!! Despite my veggie packed dinner, it didn’t help that Tom, my partner pulled out the cheese and biscuits and a Connoisseur ice cream and so I went to bed feeling really unsatisfied and still hungry. I woke up at 3:33am with a growling stomach, and after several glasses of water and salivating thoughts of toast and scones, I fell back to sleep 2 hours later (withdrawals symptoms much?!?). That feeling of emptiness is probably the lowest point I’ve felt provided a good glimpse into how strong it drives your thought to food, and only food. It also made me realise that there are many people out there that feel like this daily; a bleak moment.
Reflection: The realisations of:1. I’m stronger than I thought when it comes to making a food commitment and 2. Understanding the true feeling of physical hunger (as opposed to emotional hunger) and 3. The devastating fact that so many people go through this agony and distraction on a daily basis.
I woke up on Tuesday hankering for my morning shake - they say anything tastes good when you’re hungry.
It was a cray-cray day full of meetings and I thought that being busy would help distract the hunger. Turns out it doesn’t and the headaches worsened. During a handover I had a colleague of mine tell me I looked ‘overwhelmed’ with information… Hmmm no, I thought, I’m was just completely carb-deprived and struggling to stay focused. No doubt I looked like a Whitewalker from Game of Thrones
Dinner was a repeat of the night before (steak and ratatouille) but I could only eat ⅓ of what I usually would have. The stomach shrinking had begun! The headache still lingered and drained me so bad, I didn’t make it to Pilates that night. Instead I crawled in bed super early and called it a night.
Reflection: No matter how busy you are, starvation still wins.
The shake was starting to haunt me so Wednesday morning I bypassed it and opted for my fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. Knowing lunch was going to be late, I panicked and drank it anyway. The last thing I wanted to be doing was driving past a golden arch and losing your mind over your next meal. The other amazing thing was the headache had gone! I felt normal, clearer (hello!) and happier that the numbing pressure across my hairline had disappeared. They say that it takes three days before the side effects of ketosis subsides and the experts were spot on. Except the hunger still persisted and never really went away.
It was this day that really opened my eyes to those pesky habits you do, without knowing you do it. Those subconscious, throw away actions you barely register you’re doing but ultimately can make all the difference when its comes to health. And I’m talking about non-hungry eating. At my private practice, after I finish my clients I always go down and see the receptionists who always has a stash of cakes/biscuits/slice/crackers sitting in their office. Like clockwork, I would always walk in and head straight to the desk, pinch a chocolate cupcake and catch up on the weekly news. Except for this day when it hit me like a two tonne brick. How often do I do this in a week? Probably a lot - and it took the power of mindfulness (and Optifast) to become aware of this type of sneaky behaviours. Debriefing to Deb the receptionist, she stated that they’re faced with that situation day after day and needing to overcome the umpteenth reasons we blindlessly eat; to make the day go faster, bad mood, cold weather - because it’s there.
Reflection: Most people resent having restrictions put on them when it comes to food, however for me it highlighted how much extra crap I had been consuming just for the sake of it. Pow - mindfulness wins again!
Day 4 & 5:
These couple of days were definitely more manageable. The routine was set and physically I was feeling alright. There was, however one occasional that showed me how important it is to keep your guard up. I was at the local pub after work for a colleagues farewell drinks and hadn’t expected to stay as late as I did. I hadn’t made time for my afternoon snack which meant I then sat and stared at a bowl of hot chips and garlic bread for two and a half hours, drinking my soda water and feeling very very hungry. The drive home was again almost unbearable and I actually ended up buying a quarter charcoal chicken (no skin of course) and whipping up a very basic salad - not the best choice but that’s what happens when you’re not prepared as you should be.
By Friday night I was ready to move back to my old patterns of eating and was quite glad to wake up to my usual two slices of toast for breakfast on Saturday morning.
Reflection: Be prepared. Be always prepared.
I know I really only experienced a tiny glimpse of what it’s like to implement a VLCD, I do feel I gained an insight into what it takes to commit and ‘stick’ to a prescribed diet.
Dieting principles has never been my line of intervention and as my mission statement reflects, I truly believe “its about eating well and not necessarily less.” Put unprocessed, whole foods into your body and you’ll not only give it everything it needs but also satisfy the social and emotional side we crave so much. In regards to the low carb theory, it didn’t work for me and that awful, nagging feeling of emptiness was just not worth it when I want to pack so much into my day. I can see how it may work for some people and if they feel that amazing reducing their carbs, then I wholeheartedly support it. But if it eats you up (excuse the pun) like it did to me, then I think it’s not worth it in the long run. Life’s too short and we have too much good food to put yourself through that. Dish up a smaller amount on your plate and then everyone’s happy.
THE BIG DAY
Christmas only comes round once a year and is a day to be celebrated with good food and drinks. Be mindful that although it is only one day, it can be the little things that add up.
Tips and Tricks
- Start the day with a decent, solid breakfast. Try some eggs on toast, raisin toast, muesli or porridge with fresh seasonal fruit
- Downsize your dishware and choose a small dinner plate when you serve your meal. Extensive research shows that people eat what's put on their plates, even if it's more than they need to satisfy their hunger
- Fill your plate with lots of salad and vegetable sides to help you fill up. It’s still important to get your vegetable serves, even on Christmas day!
- Offer to bring a healthy dish. Your hostess will welcome the contribution, and you’ll know you have a go-to option
- If you love desserts and you know you won’t be able to pass up that piece of plum pudding, don’t deprive yourself. Balance it out by passing on the bread roll with butter and have a small piece of pudding. Then you get to enjoy it guilt-free and not feel like you’re missing out
Have a Game Plan
- Think about how you can keep routine; plan around your Christmas events to ensure your exercise routine continues right up until Santa arrives!
- Get outside and play with your kids on Christmas Day. Everyone loves a rival game of backyard cricket or test out the new toys given for Christmas
- Enjoy a family walk after your meal. It’s a great way to stretch the legs and help digest your food
This year, when your social schedule begins to expand during the holidays, your waistline doesn't have to. The average Australian gains 0.8-1kg over the Christmas period, however this is rarely lost again. So aim for weight maintenance rather than weight loss (or gain!)
It is inevitable that you’ll be going to at least a few festive gatherings, whether it’s the work Christmas party or the neighbours for a casual BBQ, here’s a few tips to navigate through.
Think Balance and Go Steady
- Try to stand on the other side of the room from where the food arrives from; no one likes a food stalker! This will help you to eat mindfully if you have to cross the room to get to the food
- Aim to be picky about the things you eat. Pretend to be vegetarian for the night, so your choices are higher fibre and more nutritious
- Fill up on something before you hit the party scene; try a tub of yoghurt, small bowl of soup or some cheese and crackers
- Choose lower kilojoule options such as low joule wines or spirits mixed with soda water or diet soft drinks and sip slowly
- Be designated driver to some of your parties to reduce to frequency of alcohol consumed in the festive period
- Go one for one; have an alcoholic beverage followed by a water. This keeps you hydrated as well as reduces your kilojoule intake
I have a dilemma that actually started when my partner and I was buying our first Christmas tree. I have a strong opinion that its not fair to grow a tree for 7-8 years then cut it down for the pleasure of only 3 weeks in a year. My partner, half jokingly and half seriously then posed the question of - “well if you’re that concerned about a tree, then what about meat?” (Disclosure: he loves a fresh cut tree at Christmas and he also loves meat).
Since then, it has really got me thinking and I reckon at least twice a week I have a conversation with someone about eating meat or I get the guilts when I’m at the butchers buying my weekly shop. As much as I would love to just go vegetarian, the dilemma I have is the fact that I just love meat.
Being a dietitian, my nutritional knowledge also backs me up on the importance of including meat in your diet as it provides a multitude of nutrients. These nutrients can be obtained from plant sources, but as I always say to my vegetarian clients “you can’t be a fussy vegetarian” because it takes time and thought into putting together a varied and balanced diet to cover yourself, or supplementation is usually needed as a back up. I know myself that I wouldn’t be a very ‘balanced’ vegetarian. I have also grown up from a meat-eating family and I really enjoy all types of meat - beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish.
To be honest (and probably a tad hypocritical too), I’m OK about eating meat. What I’m not OK about is the surplus amount of meat that is on offer in today’s society.
When I stop and stand in the meat section of the supermarket, or even in front of the butcher’s window, I get struck by the thought of ‘how many animals have been grown and slaughtered to provide this much food?’ Then when you multiply that by the number of supermarkets and butchers within a 5km radius, its even more frightening to think about the amount of produce on a state and national scale.
I read an interesting article titled ‘Great debate: Vegan vs Ethicurean’ in Timeout’s Melbourne magazine a few months ago. The article defines ethicureans as being all about locally grown produce and ethically sourced meat, eggs and dairy. Although not a formal definition, there seems to be an underlying support for this lifestyle choice and there are many cookbooks and restaurants that promote ‘ethicurean’ culture. Reflecting on the many conversations I have had with colleagues and family of late, this sums us up beautifully. We want to eat locally sourced produce (and I mean really local, not just what the label or butcher tells you) that is ethically and environmentally grown in an effort to make our mark on reducing agricultural and climate impact on the planet. It also represents our want to support local businesses and ensure the food is consumed in its best state of quality.
Ultimately, it’s up to us as consumers which can influence what’s put on the shelf; we all know supply equals demand. I’m lucky enough to live and work near the Yarra Valley, one of Melbourne’s food bowls, which has enabled me to source out local knowledge of where and what’s best in the area. I’m still not perfect but I believe it's a small step which can lead to bigger circles of change.
There is also another great campaign that for those like me who still love to eat meat but stand in a bucket of ethical pickles - the Meat-free Mondays campaign encourages everyone to have at least one meat-free day of the week. The campaign started in the UK but now runs globally and it’s aims are to:
If you’re in the same boat as me and concerned about our meat consumption, I encourage you to create a ripple effect by starting a conversation about being an ethicurean (or vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian) and consider changing the way you eat and shop.
** With all medical and health issues, it's imperative to consult your doctor or dietitian for tailored advice regarding your personal situation before commencing any changes. This article is written to inform and like anything, a balanced diet and regular activity is important to maintain health and well being.
I often get complaints from my clients that vegetables and salad are boring.... Not true!
Here is an easy idea to jazz up your greens!
mint leaves, torn
S & P, to season
how: toss through cooked vegetables
Goes With: peas, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini
With the weight statistics (still) on the rise, research is showing that generations to come will suffer the most regarding their health. Some part of this is due to the fact that many of us Generation Y and Z'ers aren't sure how to navigate the kitchen past the heat 'n' go meals from the freezer. Sure enough we work harder and longer hours, need to look after active children, walk the dog, go to the gym, hang out the washing but is it good enough to put food, our fuel to survive, at the bottom of the list and opt for something out of a packet?
The other issue too is that many people feel they don't have the confidence or knowledge to cook a meal from scratch and unfortunately, I think that's due to the loss of trans-generational learnings (parents teaching and encouraging their children to learn in the kitchen) and non-compulsory home economics subjects at school, not to mention the mammoth of TV shows and gourmet reviews that make us feel we need to be Australia's next top chef!
Don't despair, you can sharpen your knife in the kitchen with these 5 tips.
1. Just have a go
The only way to learn is to just jump in the deep end and try. Most likely it won't be perfect, but at least you get the idea of what works and doesn't work.
2. Think tasty, not gourmet
Save the fine dining for the restaurants, and aim to put a tasty meal together using different spices and herbs. It's a amazing how a meal can transform just by adding 1-2 seasonings. Every shop, aim to buy one new spice or herb off the rack and slowly you'll build your own spice market.
3. Gather some inspiration
Cook books are not just for coffee tables! Invest in some cook books that you feel comfortable in reading and that don't contain ingredients required from the other side of the globe. I love the Australian's Women's Weekly books, Stephanie Alexander's kitchen garden companion, Healthy Food Guide (www.healthyfoodguide.com.au) magazine and Donna Hay's 'simple essential' collection.
4. Aim for 1 new recipe a week
Pick a night or day when you have some time and set aside a recipe you wish to try. Make sure you read it thoroughly, gather all your ingredients and gage how much time you'll need- then add an extra half hour (I never can chop as quick as I think I can).
5. Keep your favourites safe
Start a recipe folder (or clearly tag the recipe) so you can pull out a favourite or 'fail proof' at anytime. The worst is knowing you have a great dish up your sleeve but you can't find the master plan...
Be bold and be adventurous... It beats eating frozen lasagna that tastes like rubber.
Carla is a contributing lifestyle editor for She is, Sarah Jane | Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blogger
As posted on www.sheissarahjane.com.au
Most Australian’s aren’t too familiar with legumes, except for the fact they make you ‘windy’. However, legumes provide such an array of nutrients I almost class them in the super food category. Here’s a little introduction to what I call the ‘vegetarian’s meat’ (which all non-vegetarians can benefit from anyway!)
Legumes are the seed or pods from the leguminous plants and include commonly known types such as borlotti, red kidney, cannellini, soya, black, Haricot (navy) and mung beans, chickpeas, split peas, peanuts and lentils. They come in both dried and canned forms and are used across the world in many countries; think Indian dhal, Mexican beans, Miso soup, tofu, baked beans.
Legumes are rich in protein due to their ability to make amino acids through converting atmospheric nitrogen into its root nodules. They are also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and thiamine that all assist with energy conversion and body rebuilding processes in the body. This group of foods are also notoriously known for their ridiculous amounts of fibre. Half a cup of cooked legumes provides an amazing 6g of fibre towards your daily total of 30g!! (an apple provides about 3g).
The best part about legumes is that they are cheap and readily available and are so easy to add into dishes. Here are a few of my suggestions on boosting protein and fibre, while saving a bit in the hip pocket.
Bolognese Sauce: Substitute 250g mince for 400g of canned red kidney beans (rinsed and drained). By the time the meat and beans break down, no one really can tell the difference (especially the kids!). You’ve also just saved yourself a few pennies whilst lowering the fat content of your sauce.
Pumpkin Soup: Add a can of chickpeas towards the last 5 minutes of cooking your pumpkin soup and blitz until smooth. It adds a lovely nutty flavour and tends to thicken your soup to a rich and creamy texture.
Stews/Casseroles: Throw in lentils as once they break down, they help to thicken up your dish. Brown lentils tend to stay in tact whilst red and yellow breakdown more easily.
Salads: There are some lovely and simple bean or chickpea recipes that are great for barbeques. Try an Italian mixed bean salad, roast pumpkin, spinach and chickpea salad or a black bean and Quinoa salad.
Breakfast: Don’t forget good ol' baked beans on toast for a great start to the day. If you’re not a fan of the canned variety, make your own using some garlic, canned tomatoes and herbs (oregano, basil).
WARNING: To avoid the excess bloating and flatulence, pre-soak all dried legumes overnight. Always rinse and drain before using in cooking. If you’re new to legumes, start by introducing small amounts and increase over time. Too much at once will only end in… you get the picture.
More info? http://www.glnc.org.au/legumes/
[Imagery sources: Carla Johnson - Dietitian Pinterest pinboard]
The way to Carla's heart is all things food. Follow her thoughts and opinions on the latest food news and myths.